Instant Pot Duo Mini
All-Clad Programmable Oval Slow Cooker
Crock-Pot Round Mini Cooker
Culinary men, fathers with not enough time in the day, hear us out: you remember when you’d come home to a meal sitting in the slow cooker, and everything would just be right with the world? We don’t have the time to make a long, drawn-out meal, but we do have the time to toss in the most succulent ingredients into the slow cooker, and have hot, fresh dinner waiting for us when we get home. Whether you want that nostalgic flavor of food from your youth, or you just want to make your life a little easier, we’ve found the best slow cookers to add to your kitchen.
The Best Slow Cookers in 2018
Instant Pot Duo Mini Slow Cooker
Instant Pot took the world by storm, revitalizing the need for a slow cooker in your kitchen. One of the top gifts in 2016, along with the gold medal earner for our extensive list, Instant Pot comes with a crazy amount of features, truly taking the place of seven different small appliances. For one, you get programmable modes that work well with the long list of attachments you receive with your purchase, The auto-warm setting kicks in after your initial cooking process, which you can set into motion with a 24-hour cooking delay feature.
At this fantastic price, there’s going to be a couple of glitches in the system. While the manufacturer is good at replacing or exchanging damaged or defective items, it’s still an inconvenience either way. Users have run into issues with the seal being dodgy, and while it includes a drip tray feature, it’s not among the best quality. You’ll still have to clean around the bottom of the pot. Your interior cooking pot does come made of 304L stainless steel, making it simple to clean, and leaving no residue left behind by non-stick coatings. Instant Pot had to go up against a long list of competitors here; based on the value and durability, it emerged victorious.
304L grade stainless steel cooking pot
Comes with a volley of additional accessories
Up to 24 hour delay start feature
- BrandInstant Pot
- ModelDuo Mini
- Weight8.65 pounds
Auto-warm setting after cooking is done lasts up to 10 hours
A true blue 7-in-1 kitchen appliance with multiple programmable features
Users have reported issues with the seal (manufacturer will fix)
Useless drip tray; there will be a little mess outside of its borders
Corosi Six Quart Multi Functional Slow Cooker
Corosi’s been on our radar for various electronics in the past, but this time they’ve brought us a slow cooker with some serious power. To get the skeletons out of the closet first, it’s also a pressure cooker, but after the fourth level of pressure, it starts releasing steam and liquid through the seal on the lid. While this is marketed as more of a pressure cooker than anything else, based on that lack of function, it actually works twice as well as the perfect slow cooker. They mark this down to a super affordable price, rivaling much of the competition in the same area of the market.
While you get a load of programmable features, you don’t really get any attachments that make use of them, so you’ll have to handle that on your own if you want to put this to its full potential. You get a delay cooking feature to put-off cooking for up to twelve hours, making it perfect to schedule for when you kick your shoes off after getting in the door. Thanks to the three-ply stainless steel bottom, this is durable as hell, fitted to last for years upon years of use.
Delay cooking feature for up to 12 hours
Six different pressure levels
Three-ply bottom stainless steel pot
- Weight15 pounds
Comes with so many programmable modes that it’s essentially foolproof
After pressure level four, lid will leaki a little
Doesn’t come with additional accessories to accommodate the various modes
Hamilton Beach Programmable Slow Cooker
You’ve seen them all over the shelves of every department store. Hamilton Beach is a lower-cost brand that packs some serious value, albeit it with a few minor quirks. For starters, you get up to six quarts of capacity in this bad boy, but that does come in a mildly imperfect pot. The stoneware seems to have been glazed improperly, on more models than just ours. Many users report little nicks and bumps in the pot, which doesn’t sound too bad, but if you’re stirring with a metal spoon, you don’t want to chip off a bit of porcelain in your dish.
The interactive LED display on the front lets you know the internal temperature when you prod it with the included, patented thermometer, and comes with other programmable features. When it comes to the locking gasket lid, whether it’s for transit or retaining heat, this thing is the real deal. In total, you’re going to get about two years of steady, heavy use out of this. Infrequent use will save you some of that time. For more foddie related products make sure you check our list of food gifts.
Six quart capacity
Stainless steel and durable, heat-resistant ABS plastic construction
Includes temperature probe with purchase
- BrandHamilton Beach
- Weight14.6 pounds
Interactive LED display w/ programmable features
Gasket lid clips extremely well, getting the job done faster, and keeping the heat in
Imperfect glazing of actual stoneware piece
Crock-Pot N Carry Six Quart Model
The ones who started it all, Crock-Pot keeps true to their initial mission from day one. For starters, your stonwear is opted to go up to 450F in the oven if you’re low on pans and in a pinch. When it comes to the slow cooker base itself, it’s only fitted for four settings: off, low, medium, and high. While that may be enough for some, when you look at all these programmable models with timers and additional functions, it falls short. For the long-term use and longevity of Crock-Pot, the value and quality just can’t be denied.
As a word of caution, the lid can’t go in the dishwasher. Well, it can, but water will get stuck between the top handle and the glass, and the metal rim surrounding the edges will distort and warp after a few uses. The sturdy ABS plastic handles make this quick to carry to and from functions, so you won’t be caught last-minute without bringing something along. Overall, the price is what really grabs you, and holds onto you tight. Cheap, durable, and from a brand name that everyone’s owned at one point or another; a clear choice.
Gasket lock for pressure on lid
One-year limited warranty
Stoneware is oven safe for up to 450F
- Weight13.5 pounds
Fantastically low price, even when not on sale
Sturdy ABS plastic carry handles on sides
Metal rim on glass lid will distort from dishwasher use
Simple operation makes this unifunctional
Crock-Pot 8-Quart Oval Slow Cooker
Coming in for round two with Crock-Pot, we have their eight quart slow cooker model. Similar to the previous model, you’re not going to get many function apart from the four main dial positions, and the lid runs into the same issues. On this model, you’re also going to see that the side handles are barely wider than the lips of the stoneware, making them fairly unnecessary. With that out of the way, Crock-Pot is known for being one of the most energy-efficient slow cooker brands on the market today.
Nobody wants to “set and forget,” only to remember again when the utility bills come around at the end of the month. Crock-Pot does its best to ensure that never happens. Their stoneware is notoriously fitted to handle up to 450F in the oven if you need to, and comes in a brushed stainless steel exterior basin. If you are looking to upgrade your kitchen, make sure you check our top blenders review.
Stoneware can go up to 450F in the oven if need be
Brushed stainless steel exterior
- Weight14 pounds
That same low cost Crock-Pot is known for
Very energy-efficient unit
Brand issue, but only has four settings (one of them is off)
Thin/difficult to maneuver handles are basically useless
Hamilton Beach Programmable Dual Digital Timer Slow Cooker
HB has dipped their toes into every aspect of the kitchen that you can imagine. Known best for small to medium-sized kitchen gadgets, these buggers brought us a stainless steel, six quart slow cooker with programmable features. Flip between two separate timers, one for stirring/adding ingredients, and one for when the product is finally complete. When you’re done, clan-up is a breeze with the dishwasher-safe lid.
When you get down to it, there’s a bit of a plastic, burning odor for about a week after operating. It’s due to dust getting into the components during storage and shipping; you’ll be overjoyed when it finally dissipates. The base is going to get very hot, so don’t put it down on top of papers. Altogether, for the low price HB charges, and the six quart capacity with a sturdy set of stoneware, it’s an excellent, budget-friendly buy.
Stay-or-go clip seal locks in heat
Two separate heat settings
- BrandHamilton Beach
- Weight11.21 pounds
Programmable w/ two timers
Sturdy, dishwasher-safe lid
Plastic, burning scent for first week of operation (processing)
Base gets extremely hot on your counter
Crock-Pot Round Mini Cooker
It’s a solo ride when you get home, but you’re sick of take-out. Crock-Pot Round Mini Cooker is super simple to set up right before you head out the door, giving you a home-cooked meal the second you walk in the door. It only comes with a two quart capacity, making it ideal for a max of up to three people, but that’s what we love about it. As a result of the size and brand, it’s super energy-efficiency, but it is a pain in the rear end to clean the stoneware.
The exterior gets hot, but those handles aren’t going to do much for you; they’re relatively flimsy, so be warned when transporting the hot base from one counter to the next. If you’re not too keen around the kitchen and you want to be, use the included recipe book, designed for small-sized meals that are perfect for this Crock-Pot.
Two quart capacity
Includes recipe book for small batch meals
Designed to serve up to three people
- Weight4.98 pounds
Energy-efficient beyond compare
Sturdy lid is dishwasher safe
Stoneware is difficult to clean with deep ridges
Cosori Six Quarts Programmable Slow Cooker
Cosori made this high-end slow cooker with so many programmable features, you’d think it could do flips and tricks. Starting out, you get eleven total functions, making this far more than a slow cooker. As a result, you also see that reflected in the price. While the tag doesn’t have us too happy, the stainless steel exterior and delay program does; set this to start up to twenty-four hours away, giving you a nice home-cooked meal when you return from that string of graveyard shifts.
If that isn’t enough, it also comes with an automatic shut-off feature. Hitting your favorite restaurant with your mates? Unexpected night out? Don’t rush home because you left the slower cooker on (it’s a lame-sounding excuse). With all those goodies, there’s still a bit of an issue with the pot itself. It’s got a non-stick coating, and you have to be very careful when cleaning it to maintain its integrity. High-end, multi-function; it’s just what you’ve been waiting for. If you plan on making some meat in this cooker, make sure you use one of the meat cleavers from our list, to make your cooking easier.
Stainless steel exterior
- Weight15 pounds
Automatic shut-off; peace of mind for extended shifts or unexpected plans
Delay program for up to twenty-four hours
Higher than our list’s average price
Non-stick pot needs to be cleaned very carefully
All-Clad Programmable Oval Slow Cooker
All-Clad has fallen out of the spotlight, but it’s a nostalgic brand for us that’s always delivered a boatload of quality. This model is built sturdy, with screw-in steel handles on the exterior that don’t heat up with the rest of the basin. That durability blends into the high-density ceramic insert and tough-as-nails glass lid, which can be cleaned in the dishwasher. That same insert, however, can’t go in the oven, and we don’t recommend putting it in the fridge to cool; transfer your food into a food-safe bag or container.
This also doesn’t come with a warm setting; 215F is the lowest temperature, so even though it’s programmable, it can’t flip to warm if you’re running home late. That programmable feature displays on a high-end LED display, allowing you to access timers and other cooking modes, making the most of all six-and-a-half quarts in your slow cooker.
Programmable LED display
Durable ceramic insert is simple to clean
- Weight12.5 pounds
Screw-in handles don’t heat up when you go to lift
Lid is sturdy as they come; comes clean out of the dishwasher with no warping
Lowest cooking temp is 215F; no warm setting
Ceramic insert is not oven-safe and shouldn’t be stored in the fridge
Crock-Pot Manual Steel 7-Quart Cooker
Crock-Pot; we can’t stay away from them. This seven quart machine comes with all the features you already know and love, including the heat-safe handles, energy efficiency, and the ability to slap that stoneware in the oven, up to 450F. Time and time again, they’ve been the reliable brand that everyone turns to, nad the notoriously low price tag doesn’t hurt.
The actual base is a bit dodgy to keep clean, and the rubber legs beneath it wear out, or get dirty and slide on the countertops, fairly easily. Seven quarts of power and a compact size makes this excellent, as well as the fact that it doesn’t throw much heat into the room. This one is simple, straight to the point, and deserve a spot beside the stove.
7-quart total capacity
Includes Crock-Pot recipe booklet
Oven-safe stoneware, up to 450F
- Weight12.55 pounds
As always, Crock-Pot keeps it at rock bottom prices
Energy efficient/200 watts on low, 270 on high
Basin is difficult to keep clean
Rubber legs on bottom wear out quickly/slide on countertops
Hamilton Beach Programmable Slow Cooker
For cost, power, dish size, it’s all HB, all the way. This ultra low cost slow cooker comes with a programmable LED panel along the bottom, and a base that doesn’t slip or slide on the countertops; it’s rock solid, and stays in place. That base doesn’t have a lot of ventilation as a result, so it will throw off a considerable amount of heat. That, and it’s difficult to keep clean.
If you’re going from place to place, the sturdy side handles will take you there. They don’t retain heat, and refuse to budge for anything. You can set this to cook for up to eighteen hours, which can be a blessing if you’re working graveyard or twelve-hour shifts, and just want something that isn’t a freezer meal when you get home. For the cost, power, and longevity that HB has always offered, this is an excellent model. After you have saved money with this product, you can invest it in one of the top juicers from our list.
Sturdy ABS plastic handles
Cook settings up to eighteen hours
Countdown timer included in programmable LED panel
- BrandHamilton Beach
- Weight10.36 pounds
Very sturdy base doesn’t move on the counter
Basin is hard to clean
Throws a lot of heat around the base
Ninja 4-in-1 Multi-Cooker
We’re coming to a close, which is the perfect time bust out the Ninja. These guys try their hand at every kitchen appliance category, and rarely disappoint. They utilize a triple-fusion heating system, which heats up three primary areas between the basin and the pot, and cooks your food evenly. No more pockets of uncooked food. That cooking setting does throw a lot of heat from the outside, so be cautious if you go to bump elbows with it in the future.
The six-quart capacity will handle just about everything you throw at it, and comes with a four-in-one functionality: stove top, slow cook, oven, and steam. You also get a little treasure trove of treats, including silicon mitts, a travel bag, and a cookbook from Ninja. Last but not least, it’s super simple to clean, so you’re not spending a day-and-a-half soaking the insert to get stubborn, stuck-on food out. Simplicity at its best.
Simple to clean inside and out
- Weight13 pounds
Triple-fusion heating system cooks thoroughly and evenly
SImple and dynamic dial function
Touch bit on the pricey side
Throws a lot of heat
Cuisinart Stainless Steel Programmable Slow Cooker
Timers and functions galore, Cuisinart comes into play with a reasonably-priced and stellar slow cooker. Program this to cook for anywhere within a twenty-four hour period, reducing to warm when that timer is done. It’s as simple as set, forget, and enjoy whenever you return home. Prolonged use (twelve-hour uses or longer) will warp the plastic chiclet-style panel on the front. It’ll still work, but it does look deformed after time.
The durable ceramic insert isn’t going into the oven, but it can go in the dishwasher; it’s ultra simple to clean, so a hot jet spray from the faucet hose should do the trick. Cuisinart threw in a recipe booklet, as well as a roasting rack to properly position your meats. At its most basic element, it’s quick to clean, reliable, and gets the job done.
Durable ceramic insert
Including a cooking rack and recipe book
- Weight21 pounds
Lid is dishwasher-safe; no warping over time
Twenty-four hour cooking timer
Chiclet-style panel buttons warp from heat over time
Cooks faster than instructions state, drying out dishes; plan ahead
Black+Decker Programmable Crock Pot
We’re ending on a high note with one of our favorite low-cost brands. Black+Decker Programmable Crock Pot is super simple to set up and clean, and even comes with a Wi-Fi enabled app to change the settings when you’re out and about. Unexpected delays? Flip it to warm so your food doesn’t dry out on the car ride home. The rubber grips on the bottom are very easy to wear down, and the lid is not recommended to go in the dishwasher.
That being said, it does come with sturdy handles, and an extremely tight locking lid. From stem to stern, it’s functional and reliable from one of America’s most-trusted brands: Black+Decker. If you’re still not sure what you’re looking for in a slow cooker, take a look below at our buying guide, and circle back to grab the one that’s right for you. We’ve covered just about everything you can think of.
Easy to clean
Does not throw a lot of heat from the outside
Sturdy side and top handles
- Weight7 pounds
Pressurized locking lid works like a dream
Remote start it from an app, and shut it off if there’s an unexpected delay getting home
Small rubber grips are easily worn down
Lid should not be thrown into the dishwasher
Slow Cooker Buying Guide and FAQ
How We Chose Our Selection of Slow Cookers
The time-tested favorite of 70s and 80s kids everywhere, slow cookers bring you a load of nostalgia in most of your favorite meals. Without letting fond memories cloud judgment, we’ve taken the following criteria into account to bring you this list:
- Brand name, reputation, and average warranty
- Materials used in construction
- Number of settings
- Life expectancy
- Expected electricity use over an eight-hour period
- Total volume of the pot
- Minimum and maximum temperature range
- Additional features and attachments
When your really boil it down, these are simple and easy-to-use appliances that take all the guesswork out of cooking. While not every slow cooker met all requirements, it’s a give and take, which is why we’ve covered fourteen of them in-depth.
Features to Look For in Slow Cookers
Materials & Build - Materials of the pot itself, the heating coil, certain grades of stainless steel: most slow cookers use top-grade materials, but you should always pay attention to the build to avoid making mistakes.
Size - How much can it hold? These are usually measured in quarts, but keep in mind, you shouldn’t fill your slow cooker above ⅔ capacity if you want it to cook consistently.
Settings - Most classic models have off, low, medium, high, and warm. In an old-school sense, that’s all you need, but if you want to give yourself all the options in the world, look for the most features possible on the interface.
Features - Some models, like our top pick, come with additional attachments and cooking features, preventing you from buying vegetable steamers and rice cookers.
Durability - The coil or heating element would be the first thing to go. Out of just about every slow cooker we tested, it has durable wiring and a solid base. The durability is basically the life expectancy of your unit.
Q: What is a Slow Cooker?
A: These handy little countertop kitchen appliances allows you to simply set, and forget, in the most true blue sense of the phrase. The base contains heating elements, such as coils and hot plates, which sends residual heat to the cooking pot. Those pots are usually made of stainless steel, stoneware, or a type of porcelaine. Heat transfers to the pot, and based on the weight of the pot, it’ll keep a seal between the base and itself, maintaining heat. These are safe to leave on while you’re out of the house all day, and allow you to use lower quality meats and ingredients to save money, and get a stellar meal out of it.
Q: How to Use a Slow Cooker
A: It’s essentially plug-and-play: connect it to the outlet, choose low, medium, high or warm (on most basic models), and let the food cooking commence. Following recipes to a tee will result in excellent dinners and delicious stews to snack on over the course of a few days, and while it all sounds pretty simple, these are some tips on how to use your slow cooker most efficiently.
- Keep your vegetable chunks large so they don’t dissipate or distort in the cooking process.
- Browning raw meats in a pan first will give them enhanced color and flavor, even after a long stewing process in the slow cooker.
- If your end result is too thin, cornstarch or flour will thicken up broth.
- If you’re using fresh herbs, ensure they’re completely under the liquid level to give-off the best flavor possible.
- Every time you lift the lid, you have to add twenty minutes to the expected time, because you’re releasing low pressure and concentrated heat/steam. This is why they come with glass lids.
- Don’t use top-tier meat (veal, lamb) in a slow cooker; they will fall apart.
- Cut everything as even-sized as possible for mealtime consistency.
- Always, always, always check the temperature of your food before serving, just in case of a hardware malfunction. You want to make sure it’s safe to eat.
Q: Are You Supposed to Put Water in a Slow Cooker?
A: For almost every recipe, yes, you’re expected to put water in. You’re creating a broth, whether it’s in stew, a roast, or cooked vegetables, because while the slow cooker is gently cooking your food, it’s still creating condensation, which you’ll be able to see on the underside of the glass lid. Depending on how long you’ll be away from the slow cooker or out of the house, you’ll need ample amounts of water to prevent sticking and burning.
Q: What Can You Cook in a Slow Cooker?
A: Anything you can make, a slow cooker can usually make just as well, and if not, better. There’s virtually no limit to what you can cook in a slow cooker, which is why we exhaust our favorites, and often turn to The Country Cook or AllRecipes.com for inspiration. Using your imagination and the fundamentals of science-based cooking, you can make endless safe to eat and delicious recipes.
Q: Can You Put Raw Meat in a Slow Cooker?
A: It’s completely encouraged. We discuss frozen meats in a minute, which fall under different stipulations, but thawed or fresh raw meat can cook beautifully in the slow cooker. The main thing you want to avoid is accidental burning. If you’re throwing a raw 2lb roast into the slow cooker, it’s going to emit sodium from the blood in the meat, which can dry up and make the meat stick, and eventually burn, to your cooking pot.
Slow Cooker recipes often call for a certain amount of water, which slowly evaporates over the cooking time, but also helps to create delicious broth that keeps your meats moist throughout the cooking process. Since the temperature range of the slow cooker can be enough to boil water, it’s more than enough to cook raw meats sitting in a broth or heavy volume of water.
Q: How Long Does it Take to Cook in a Slow Cooker?
A: It depends on the contents, the volume, and if you’re cooking meat or not. On average, meals tend to require four to six hours to be fully cooked. Temperatures in your slow cooker range from about 200F to 300F, mimicking the lower settings on your conventional oven. We’ll talk about frozen meats in a minute, and how it can really impact your overall cooking time. So long as all the food in your slow cooker has reached a safe temperature, it’s safe to eat, but you always want to take taste into consideration. For most foods, the longer it cooks, the better it’s going to taste, up to a certain point.
Q: Can You Put Frozen Food in a Slow Cooker?
A: There’s no short answer. This writer ate out of a Crock-Pot five days a week as a kid, and in the morning, that often meant throwing frozen meats into the pot before turning it on. I never got sick, but there is a risk for those of you tossing meats right out of the freezer, straight into the pot.
Any meat needs to reach an internal temperature of 145F to become safe to eat. That’s just the threshold where harmful bacteria stops reproducing, and dies out completely. If you’re throwing a frozen 3lb roast in the slow cooker for four hours, it’s going to go through an entire thawing process, at which point, bacteria will emerge from its frozen state and begin to multiple, from temperatures at low as 40F, all the way up to 144F (donned the “Danger Zone”). Bacteria is stubborn, so if you’re raising the temperature of your meat rapidly, it might take a few minutes for an internal temp of 155F to have fully quashed all living bacteria.
If you’re leaving the meat in there for a while, you should be okay. Slow cookers generally range from 200F on lot, up to 300F or higher on their high setting, so you should be safe, but it’s always smart to test it out with a meat thermometer before serving.
Q: How do You Wash a Slow Cooker?
A: It depends on the material of the pot. Slow cookers can be a pain in the behind to clean, because you’re essentially binding food to it for eight or more hours in a single use. Think about cleaning one frying pan after only using it for ten minutes, and multiply that. When you clean a slow cooker, you’ll have to soak the whole thing for a few minutes before you can really dig into it.
These are going to come in stainless steel and stoneware for the most part, which makes them durable, but not necessarily viable for the dishwasher. While they’re not going to take any damage, they’ll weigh down your racks and possible damage the wheels in your dishwasher. We always recommend hand cleaning, which also gives you a window of opportunity to dig into stuck-on food.
The second that dinner is over and your stow away the leftovers, take that warm cooking pot and hit it with the sink hose on full pressure. It’ll tear away any stuck-on food, and while it’s going to create some hassle for your garbage disposal, it’s also going to leave a more consistent clean. The number one thing to look out for when cleaning your slow cooker pot, is the ghost line around wherever your food was resting. Water is going to slowly evaporate from your slow cooker, and leave a ring of caked-on food residue at the highest point where your food was within the pot. Use your hands, feel all around the pot for any of this, and ensure a thorough clean.
- Can You Cook Frozen Meat in a Slow Cooker?, The Kitchn
- Use Your Favorite Recipes in a Crockpot, The Spruce Eats
- Meat Cooking Temperatures Guide, Real Simple Official Website
- Cooking Requirements for Specific Types of Food, ServSafe
- “Danger Zone”, USDA FSIS Official Website
- How to Use a Slow Cooker, BBC Good Food
- 14 Tips for Slow-Cooker Meals, The Food Network
- Slow Cookers 101: How a Slow Cooker Works, Everyday Good Thinking blog, by Hamilton Beach